Citizens of the United States and Canada are granted 90 days of total passage as a tourist in the EU countries of Europe. Holders of U.S. and Canadian passports are also allowed to stay in most non-EU nations for up to 90 days each. If you wish to stay longer purely as a tourist (not working), or if you hail from a country from which the EU requires a visa, you may apply for one by following a few simple steps.
Visit one of the European Union member state's official Schengen visa website for an overview of who is required to obtain a visa, what nations it applies to, how long it takes to apply, what the visa allows travelers to do legally, and for what period the visa is valid. Since the visa is valid across all EU states, it does not matter which nation's policy you refer to for information.
Download and print the Schengen Tourist Visa Application from an official EU member state visa website. Complete this form as directed carefully. Print a second application and complete it as well for a backup copy and in case any corrections need to be made at the time of submission. Each nation's visa application form is only accepted at the respective nation's consulate or embassy so make sure to download the proper form for your needs.
Collect two passport sized portrait photographs or yourself, your valid U.S. passport, the completed visa application form, proof of your arrival and departure reservations (air/sea), proof of your accommodations while in the EU (hotel reservations or address of rental apt, etc.), bank statements proving sufficient funds for your stay (100 euro per day on average), medical travel insurance and proof from your employer that you are returning to your work after your visit to the EU. In addition you will require a 60 euros (about $78 as of January, 2011) payment for processing of the visa application payable by money order or credit card.
Make an appointment at the embassy or consulate for the country you wish to apply through. Keep in mind that the larger and more visited countries like France and Italy tend to have more applications to process and therefore have fewer appointments open. Each consulate has its own system with some featuring online reservation centers and others doing it all by phone.
Bring all of the accumulated requirements to your appointment and be on time. Professional or at least neat attire also helps to be considered in a positive light by the consular official. The process is a political one and any application can be denied so take it seriously and represent yourself well.